It was a sick pass. In the middle of a scoreless first period in a pivotal game five in Manhattan, Mark Stone broke in across the Rangers blueline. He didn't take long weighing his options, slipping a pass to Jason Spezza, a perfectly arced saucer pass that landed directly on Spezza's outstretched blade before being swept through the legs of Henrik Lundqvist. The goal itself was a huge one for the Senators. Even though they foiled their own advantage on Monday night, that one play, coupled with a nice display of goaltending, was enough for the Senators to grab a 3-2 series lead.
Over the past two years, much has been written and said about the phenomenal rise of Mark Stone's stock. His triple digit production in Brandon last year earned him a whole new appreciation from Sens fans. This year's performance at the World Juniors, as well as another all-star calibre year, inspired a lot of puns and solidified Stone's rank as a top-tier prospect. His first notable play was a big part of what we'd heard (or seen repeatedly dissected by TSN panelists at the WJC) about him: soft hands. He can use them in front of the net, where his physicality and size are good complementary skills. He can use them in the corners and work pucks to his linemates.
Figuring out the value of a prospect is a determination of how the player's skills will translate at the next level. Stone's pass to Spezza was a promising sign, but being embarrassed in a foot-race during the second period was not. After all, the 'big but' with Stone has always been his skating. Still, it was a good debut. And Senators fans would know-- we've seen a lot over the past few seasons.
Mark Stone wasn't even the only prospect to make his debut in the second half of these playoffs. He was joined by the highly touted prospect out of the Swedish Elite League,
David Rundblad Jakob Silfverberg. Silfverberg came into the lineup with a ton of hype, a top-line spot next to Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, and most likely the tail-end of a monumental hangover. I'm fairly confident no player has ever had their own signature chant before earning a debut with this team (although Mark Stone does have a lot of punny headlines: Hands of Stone!). Silfverberg came out strong and passed around in the cycle before getting an early scoring chance. Other than a penalty later in the game, that was the most notable part of (OH AH) Silfverberg's night.
Silfverberg's first NHL game was a good reminder that we do not yet know anything about what these players are going to be like in an Ottawa Senators uniform. And Mark Stone's showed us that we have a lot to be excited about.
- Jim O'Brien, Andre Petersson, Mike Hoffman and Mark Borowiecki also played in their NHL debuts this season (Rob Klinkhammer played a number of games, but he also had had a start with the Blackhawks. Kaspars Daugavins was up with the team for sixty minutes in 09/10). Of this year's debuts, O'Brien has been the only one to stick around with the big team for more than a sip of coffee. I'm such a fan of his game that my twitter avatar has been his first goal celebration for, oh, maybe three months now?
- The return of Stefan Noesen was not enough for his Plymouth Whalers to advance to the third round, dropping a game seven. Noesen had been missing time with a broken finger- second of Ottawa's draft class from last year to get one (Pageau snapped his pinky in late 2011.)
- Speaking of Pageau, the Olympiques did their captain a favor by sending him to Chicoutimi. Pageau and the rest of his team are facing the dominant Sea Dogs' in the third round.
- Pageau isn't the only Sens' prospect in conference final action in the Q. Jakub Culek is with Rimouski against the Halifax Mooseheads.
- Matt Puempel was another guy to make his pro debut- he did with Binghamton- and was able to score his first professional goal. Puempel will rejoin the Petes, who hopefully will do well with the return of their leading scorer and not mimic the horrendous season they had this year. Also, hopefully said scorer will stay healthy...
- Of course, Shane Prince and the 67's trail Niagara by one game- that one is hopefully leveled tonight in Ottawa. You should go.